So, you need a website for your business. You have plenty of options. You may have heard about a few of these options even during SuperBowl commercials. With so many choices, how will you know what will work best for your business?
Preliminary Questions Before Building Your Website:
Before you can begin work on building your website, it’s important to know a few vital questions. This will help you narrow down what platform you use to build upon.
- Who will do the work of updating the content on your website?
- Who will do the design work of your website?
- How much traffic do you currently have or expect to have daily?
- What is your budget?
- Who will maintain your website security and backups?
- Do you need email at your domain name?
- Do you mind if your site looks like others or do you want something that is uniquely your own?
- How much time do you have before the website must be launched?
- What other tools do you want to integrate with your website? (Email newsletter signups, third-party databases, etc)
- Will you be selling products from your website?
Website Builder Platform Comparison:
|Features:||WordPress.com||WordPress Self Hosted||Squarespace||Wix||Weebly|
|Domain Registration||$18 per domain||Not Included – I like Hover.com||$20 per domain||$15+ per domain per year||$38 per year|
|Hosting||Included, no email support||Get your own – I like Siteground (email inclusion on most shared hosting)||included, no email support||included, no email support||included, no email support|
|Design||300+ options, some cost||unlimited. Get free themes, buy premium themes, or build your own||22 templates||100+ templates, most free||100+ themes|
|Blog (ease of use on a scale of 5)||5||5||5||4||4.5|
|E-commerce||Starts with $299 per year plan||add your own||cost per quantity of products||premium plan||cost per quantity of products|
|Limits||No custom themes or plugins unless a VIP client starting at $5,000mo||not intuitive at first install, customization needed||20 pages and 2 contributors to the site||once you pick a template, you can’t change it||5-10 pages for starter plans|
|Price||$0, $99yr, $299yr||Free + hosting, registration, customization||$8mo, $16, $24||$5, $10, $13, $16, $24mo||$4, $8, $24mo|
When considering the limitations of Squarespace, Wix, or Weebly, it is important to point out the core philosophy about WordPress.
Out of the Box
Great software should work with little configuration and setup. WordPress is designed to get you up and running and fully functional in no longer than five minutes.
Design for the Majority
The average WordPress user simply wants to be able to write without problems or interruption.
Decisions, not Options
Avoid putting the weight of technical choices on our end users.
Clean, Lean, and Mean
The rule of thumb is that the core should provide features that 80% or more of end users will actually appreciate and use.Different people have different needs, and having the sheer number of quality WordPress plugins and themes allows users to customize their installations to their taste. That should allow all users to find the remaining 20% and make all WordPress features those they appreciate and use.
Striving for Simplicity
We’re never done with simplicity. We want to make WordPress easier to use with every single release.
Our Bill of Rights
WordPress is licensed under the General Public License (GPLv2 or later) which provides four core freedoms, consider this as the WordPress “bill of rights”:
- The freedom to run the program, for any purpose.
- The freedom to study how the program works, and change it to make it do what you wish.
- The freedom to redistribute.
- The freedom to distribute copies of your modified versions to others.
What this means for you:
- If you want your website to do something that currently can’t be done, you can write your own code (or hire) to add that functionality.
- If you ever want to leave WordPress as your platform, you can easily export all of your data to take elsewhere
- Even if WordPress changes, you can make your own derivative platform and keep your site running
Chose Your Website Builder Wisely
Why put in a lot of work on building your site if you later learn the platform you’ve selected doesn’t support your needs? It really does matter to know this information first.
For the most flexibility, go with WordPress. If you absolutely have no funds to start with and can handle the limits, WordPress.com will work. You can later have them export your site to a self-hosted WordPress website.
The drawback to WordPress self-hosting include needing to know how to change the look of your site. While most non-WordPress systems let you set the look with a simple drag and drop interface, the same isn’t true for WordPress. Also, out of the box not a lot will be unique to your business. If you want e-commerce functionality, you’ll need to learn (or hire) how to add a plugin to provide that functionality.
Another drawback is the confusion in how to get your website built. Sure, you can download WordPress, but what do you do with that file? How does that go live to the web? The main solution is this:
- Purchase your domain name
- Acquire hosting
- Use the host’s WordPress install
- Build your site content
- Design the look
It is easier to go to one place that offers everything from buying your domain to hosting your site and helping you make it look great. While easier, it means that you are locked in to their ecosystem.
However, with WordPress, your functionality is limitless. While other systems might adapt to fit your needs, with WordPress you have a tool in your hands that powers 23% of the internet. With so many users, there is a huge development community available to you with just a Google search. If you need to do something more that the basic install doesn’t do, you can make that happen.
Designing Your Site In WordPress:
There are thousands of WordPress themes available for quickly getting the look of your website. You’ll get what you pay for. If you get a free theme from WordPress itself, it will be free of malicious code and might be up to the most current standards (like being mobile responsive). If you buy elsewhere, beware. Some themes are just not up to par with web standards and lack support. Others are fantastic. Know before diving in. But, if you want drag and drop ability to easily make your website uniquely yours without mucking about in code, I love Headway. Take a look:
Next in the series: Getting started with Headway